The other day while rambling through the local home and garden show, I came across a small booth tucked away in a corner where a kind-looking gentleman was selling mushroom plug spawn. Intrigued, I stopped to chat and soon decided that, as I had no idea at all how to grow mushrooms, it seemed a charming hobby which, I was assured, really was very easy and took no time at all.
That is how I came to purchase a 100-plug bag of mushroom spawn. Until that moment, I had never really thought about how mushrooms grow. Something about caves and dark was all I knew. Well, it turns out that, of course, the type of mushroom you want to grow will determine your choice of spawn. Beside plug spawn, it turns out mushrooms mushrooms can be cultured in a variety of ways. Since I wanted to grow lion's mane, I purchased that bag of lion's mane plug spawn from the gently gent.
So why lion's mane? This mushroom is hard to find commercially, but it is delicious with a taste very similar to lobster. As it grows, it forms white, frothy bubbles which resemble pom-poms. This seemed the one for me.
As instructed, I took the plastic bag with the 100 plugs and left it in a dark closet for two weeks. The plugs are small wooden dowels inoculated with the spawn. Sure enough, by the end of the two weeks, the plugs were now covered in mycelium which would eventually grow into mature mushrooms. I felt strangely elated, though the plugs had done all the work.
In the meantime, again following prejudice instructions, I had selected a three-foot log of Douglas fir and allowed it to age for the two weeks. Sometimes, mushroom growers can use a stump, but, as I was out of bumps, I had selected a medium-sized log and let it dry out a bit. The idea was that by aging it, any parasitic elements would have died and new ones would not have had time to colonize the log. It was a reasonably clean environment for the plugs.
The log was upright, setting in about six inches of sand which I had prepared and then placed in a fairly shady spot near a water source. Now, came the tricky part. I knew as soon as I heard about it, I would have trouble. I had to drill two- to three-inch deep holes four inches apart, making a diamond pattern. At first, I had trouble figuring out what size drill bit to use, but, ever, I got it and wound up with about 50 holes. My log looked like it had a bad case of acne.
Then, I hammered the plugs in with a rubber mallet. Naturally, I was afraid that the pounding would strip the mycelium off the plugs, but the holes were big enough so that did not happen. I could hardly believe I had managed that far.
My next and last task was to brush melted beeswax over the holes, filling them in so they were impervious to outside influences. Similarly, the kind of wax used in cheesemaking would also work. As an experienced jam-maker, I did not have any trouble with this step. Now, the spawn were to go ahead and grow. I had heard it could take a long time, up to a year. It sees indoor farming, like regular, outdoor farming, requires the long view. In fact, for anyone taking up the hobby of growing mushrooms , a prime requisite is patience.
By Diane Butler
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